FOX Saturday Baseball will feature a set of games that will provide viewers with an opportunity to see some different teams. There are no Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers, or Cardinals this week. With just two Saturdays before the All-Star Break, expect plenty of plugs for the Midsummer Classic in Minneapolis and plenty of trade talks from the commentators. It’ll be particularly interesting with this set of games because there are some teams that could be sellers and some teams that have quality talent to move. This Saturday’s matchups are Baltimore at Boston, Texas at the New York Mets, and San Francisco at San Diego.
Baltimore at Boston
It may not be betting-related, but the hope is that these historical factoids are interesting to the readers. This set of factoids certainly is. The Baltimore/Boston rivalry dates back to 1901 when the Orioles were a member of the first season of the American League. Back then, they were the Milwaukee Brewers, ironically enough. They lost 13-2 to the Boston Americans in their first meeting on June 2, 1901. The Brewers moved to St. Louis the following year and were the St. Louis Browns until relocating to Baltimore in 1954.
This year’s Orioles got off to a slow start, but they’ve been coming on strong of late. The Orioles were 27-27 at the start of June, but have gone 18-12 since then to close the gap in the AL East standings. They’re just one game back of the Toronto Blue Jays with a tie in the loss column. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have not been able to get things going offensively and are 8.5 games back of the Jays.
Friday’s rainy weather has had an impact on Saturday’s game. The teams will play a day-night doubleheader to keep the second game in FOX’s exclusivity window. The starters for the first game are Miguel Gonzalez and Jon Lester, while the nightcap features Ubaldo Jimenez and John Lackey.
Jimenez has struggled away from Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who helped Jimenez regain his velocity with some mechanical tweaks. Jimenez’s average fastball velocity is the lowest it has ever been and after setting a career-best in Zone% last season, he has fallen to a career low in pitches thrown in the strike zone. The results are obvious, as Jimenez is 3-8 with a 4.31 ERA and a 13 percent walk rate, which is the highest among qualified pitchers. The Orioles are just 5-12 in Jimenez’s 19 starts for a loss of 6.62 units. That means that the Orioles are 41-27 in games not started by Jimenez.
Jimenez has pitched much better after a disastrous April, but he had a 25/23 K/BB ratio in June and was the benefactor of a .250 BABIP. He had a 3.71 ERA in June, but also had a 5.25 FIP and a 4.87 xFIP. Those aren’t positive signs going into a start against the Red Sox, a team that Jimenez is 1-3 against in six starts with a 9.31 ERA.
John Lackey continues to exhibit outstanding control and the results have been there with a 9-5 record in 17 starts and a 3.62 ERA. His advanced metrics suggest some positive regression with a FIP of 3.28, a xFIP of 3.21, and a SIERA of 3.39. The Red Sox are 10-7 in Lackey’s 17 starts for a profit of 2.29 units.
Lackey has been strong at home with a 2.77 ERA in 61.2 innings of work. Interestingly, Lackey is posting the highest fastball velocity of his career this season, now two years removed from missing almost all of the 2012 season with injuries. It’s definitely an anomaly to see a 35-year-old pitcher with Lackey’s mileage getting stronger, but it’s a testament to how hard he worked to get back.
Jimenez cannot be trusted, even against the poor Red Sox offense. The outcome of Game 1 will probably have some impact on the night game, depending on which relievers are used and whatnot, but Lackey has been throwing the ball very well at home.
Texas at New York (NL)
Interleague Play between the Rangers and Mets yields little in the form of past results. The Mets took two out of three from the Rangers in June 2011 in Arlington and also took home a series victory the last time these teams played in New York, when the Mets still called Shea Stadium home in 2008. The Mets were also victorious in a three-game set in 2003. That makes the Mets 6-3 in nine previous games against the Rangers.
Neither team is having the type of season that they envisioned, as both teams are well below .500 and well off the pace in the division standings. The Rangers have been decimated by injuries with Martin Perez and Prince Fielder out for the year, Derek Holland, who has yet to pitch this season, out until after the All-Star Break, and various injuries to other starting pitchers. The Mets have had a few injuries, but they haven’t performed up to the expectations of GM Sandy Alderson, who predicted a 90-win season.
Nick Tepesch will take the hill for the Rangers in this interleague matchup. Tepesch is 3-3 in his eight starts with a 3.65 ERA. His FIP of 4.55, xFIP of 4.53, and SIERA of 4.64 suggest regression, but that could hold off for at least one more start because the Mets have a very mediocre offense and Citi Field is a good park to pitch in. The Rangers are 4-4 in Tepesch's eight starts for a modest profit of 0.48 units.
Tepesch certainly earned his call-up from Triple-A after posting a 6-1 record with a 1.58 ERA. His strikeout totals from the minors and his 17-start stint last season have not carried over to this season and a spike in walks alongside the strikeout drop has made things difficult for him this season. He did end the month of June on a positive note with 7.1 shutout innings in his last start, so the potential is certainly there.
Ageless wonder Bartolo Colon has orchestrated another solid first half to a season. Now at 41, Colon is 8-6 with a 3.88 ERA and a sparkling 3.4 percent walk rate. As a member of the Athletics over the last two seasons, Colon was 3-2 in six starts against the Rangers with a 2.20 ERA and a 23/6 K/BB ratio. The Mets are 9-7 in Colon’s 16 outings for a profit of 3.32 units.
Not surprisingly, Colon has been a lot better at home, where he has a 2.11 ERA in 42.2 innings compared to a 5.06 ERA in 64 innings. Citi Field has a spacious outfield and Colon, who pitches to contact and throws nearly 83 percent fastballs, certainly reaps the benefits of a pitcher-friendly park.
Pick: New York
The Mets have the luxury of an advantage in the pitching matchup and Colon knows most of these hitters well from his days with the A’s. The Rangers lose an extra bat without the DH and that’s a bat that they could have used with Tepesch on the mound.
San Francisco at San Diego
These two California rivals have played each other since 1969, when the Padres expansion franchise was an inaugural member of the newly-created NL West. After sweeping Houston in their first home series, the Padres suffered their first loss in franchise history against the Giants, an 8-0 rout in which the Padres committed five errors. The Giants lineup that day included Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, and Willie McCovey. The Padres lost 110 games that year, which remains a franchise record.
The Giants are reeling right now, losers of 16 out of 21 since they reached a high point of the season at 42-21. The Padres are flirting with a series of dubious records for offensive futility and injuries have once again derailed their season. Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, and Everth Cabrera are all missing from the lineup, while staff ace Andrew Cashner has only made 12 starts and promising lefty Robbie Erlin is on the 60-day DL with elbow soreness. Josh Johnson, a big offseason acquisition, is also out for the season.
The Giants will send Tim Hudson to the mound in hopes of getting back on track. The Padres will counter with rookie Odrisamer Despaigne, who will be making his third career Major League start and only his 10th career pro ball start. Hudson, who will turn 39 during the All-Star Break, is making his 443rd career Major League start. His 212 career wins are the most among active pitchers.
Even at nearly 38, Hudson, like a fine wine, may be getting even better. He’s posting a career year in terms of walks, with just 16 walks in 107.2 innings of work. He’s 7-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 16 starts and bettors have cashed in with Hudson on the mound. The Giants are 10-5 for 4.6 units of profit. Hudson’s an extreme ground ball pitcher who relies on a sinker/cutter combination to induce a lot of weak contact.
Despaigne is definitely the exception in baseball, with just seven minor league starts prior to his Major League debut. Despaigne defected from Cuba in 2013 and signed with the Padres in May. He has a rather interesting arsenal of pitches, with a sinker, cutter, slider, curveball (which PITCHf/x has occasionally misclassified as an eephus pitch), and a changeup. He hasn’t missed many bats, with just seven swings and misses in two starts and only three strikeouts in 13.2 innings, but hitters have had a hard time squaring up his pitches. As hitters see him more, the results may change, but, for now, Despaigne has been effective. The Padres are 2-0 in Despaigne’s two starts for a profit of 2.46 units.
Offense will be the key to this game. The Giants managed just 93 runs in 26 games in June, while the Padres scored just 60 in 17 games. The Padres have been saved by their bullpen, which has posted a 17-9 record in one-run games. Expect a low-scoring, bullpen-dependent game, which should come as no surprise at Petco Park.
Pick: San Diego
What Despaigne is doing is likely unsustainable given his walk rates from Cuba and his inability to miss bats as a professional, but he’s providing a different look for the opposition and that takes time to get used to. The Giants were his opponent in his Major League debut, so it’ll be interesting to see how Despaigne adjusts in his first test against a team that has already seen him. The Padres have beaten Tim Hudson twice already this season and will be facing him for the fourth time already. The Giants are struggling, which the Padres are playing for their jobs since GM Josh Byrnes was fired and change is clearly coming.